Friday, 29 June 2007

Trains and Rain

Rain does not affect trains in a positive way. Well, excessive rain, I mean.

Yesterday, had all day 'New Staff Orientation Seminar'. Yippee. Actually, it really wasn't so bad; I got to meet two knitters/crocheters and a Rotarian! So, hurrah!

Just when one would have thought I had enough fun for the day... then it really started.

Left UEA on 4.05 bus headed to rail station for 5.00 train. Bus took 40 minutes to go all 7 miles or whatever, leading me into advanced high blood pressure and hyperventilation. Sprinted across traffic in hysterical manner to station at 4.53, screeched to halt at display screen... to find: TRAIN CANCELLED.

So, One Railway was kind enough to apologise over loudspeaker every 2m34sec for the cancellation (although the British do have A LOT of things to learn about customer service in general, I do appreciate the fact of apologies in failed service situations) and also organised a replacement service to run at 5.20 (in addition to the normal one at 5.30). Train pulled in at 5.17, mad frantic cram onto train, train departed 5.23, went approximately 100 yards and stopped for 3 minutes. This was not an auspicious start.

But, then we got going along at a nice clip. Toodling, toodling towards Liverpool Street, knitting away merrily, not going to have any problem making connection because due to arrive 1 hour before train left Paddington (hums to self hopefully). Then train just bloody STOPS. Dead. For 24 minutes. On a bridge. There was some problem in Kelverton with a broken train stuck in the station and we happened to be on the track behind it. I am quite confident that the 5.30 Norwich train zoomed past us, as one of the many that did.

At this point, beginning to see that a 7.53 arrival into Liverpool Street is not really going to allow an 8.15 departure from Paddington. Begin to think horribly paranoid thoughts about them not letting me on next train without paying penalty fare or buying whole new ticket and plan means of working self up into hysterical scene. Dart off train at 7.53.14 and run flailing to Underground; am on Hammersmith train by 7.55 and sweating. Notice clock at Euston station (the stop before Paddington) at 8.14 -- although has anyone ever noted that every clock in every station is completely different from every other clock in every other station and always from your own? So how in God's name does anyone really know if a train is on time or not?

Finally, arrive Paddington and am crushed up the stairs with the entire human contents of the train, run to rail connection area. I think I missed my train by two minutes.

Fortunately, was not forced to create hysterical foaming-at-the-mouth scene as customer service lady stamped my ticket for the 9.15 train and said everything would be fine. So, I got to watch screaming children for an hour and debate whether sustenance was called for. Decided against it as stress makes one kind of queasy.

*interlude of observation*

You know how sometimes you will drive past a field of cows and they are all facing and staring in a random direction (where there is absolutely NOTHING of possible interest)? Train stations are kind of like that, except there is something of interest. These masses of people (myself included) stand/sit in visual line of the display boards waiting for platform number to reveal itself. And it is not just when your train info is imminent (like 2 or 3 in the queue on the board); we stand there staring when we know it is entirely too early, just trying to will the board to tell us the future. It is kind of funny. And then, when the board does communication its plan for our behaviour, a mass of people rises and moves as one toward the few little slots to enter whichever platform.

*We now move into usage of the past tense*

So, the mass of humanity rushed onto the train, train left on time, and I settled in to be content on the journey, even though I would now be arriving at 11.37 instead of 10.26...

UNTIL, the man across the aisle chose to take the opportunity of trying to chat up dingbat 2nd year uni girl at his table. The man was mid-40s and the girl was, like, studying Zoology, because she, like, likes animals and stuff. His cunning chat-up plot was talking about Monarch Butterflies' migratory habits between California and Mexico and he had this lovely Valleys accent (Welsh Valleys accent is v. distinctive and sing-songy if you aren't aware of this. It is rather looked down upon, though, by a lot of people.). No, this doesn't sound so bad, BUT I just wasn't in the mood to listen and my ear refused to block out his voice as boackground noise. And he was speaking really pretty loudly. He took approximately three breaths between London and Swindon (and this is a long way).

Then one of the screaming children from the station appeared in our car, at the table in front of me. And it proceeded to shriek. Not out of pain or suffering, just for the heck of it. It was a piercing sound. Cuteness factor is completely negated when pointless shrieks begin. Additionally, it's mother kept getting up and going to the luggage rack and digging out bottles and diapers and loud video games for the sibling. Every time she did this, the door sensor went off WHOOSHing the door open and shut. And open and shut. And open and shut. And open and shut. (Picture clear?)

My sweater suffered irreparable damage through all this (as did my patience) and will have to be ripped out YET AGAIN. Although this time, I think I have a cunning plan to improve my previous alteration attempt with regard to gauge, so in that sense, we have a silver lining (a silver lining with a headache).

Finally after a lot of people debarked signalling possibility of space in next car, I pretended to go to the loo. I gathered my yarn, my book and my phone, slyly grabbed bags as passed luggage rack (WHOOSH) and moved to next car. Monarch butterfly man was still whittering on, and by this time the girl expressed her thought that 'it might be kind of cool to do a PhD' --because she worked in Uruguay with injured pumas one summer. Okay.

Can I say that it was nice to get to Cardiff?

My goal for the weekend is to tie up some more loose ends (e.g. collecting tax forms, going to B's leaving-do from L&G, delivering birthday pressies, coffee, cleaning Gold Street, turning keys back in to horrid estate agents, going to IKEA). So, perhaps I had best get going instead of faffing about on the internet. Tee hee.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Location, location, location

Today, Mr. Brown moved into Number 10.
The Blairs moved out, and Cheri told the press that she wouldn't miss them.
Naturally, there have been numerous montages of The Blair Years at the end of various news shows.
These montages play really cheesy music.

Have just talked to Fabiana on Skype phone -- her School graduates on Monday 16 July and mine graduates on Wednesday 18 July! It is kind of surreal. The year 2005-2006 was a complete brain-trauma for all of us (while at the same time being great fun. it was kind of like watching a movie of your life, except when someone trips, it is you. and this does not always make you laugh.), and yet now it all seems so very far away. Everyone has scattered back across the world, although in very different places (literally and figuratively) than we came from in the first place (and they should all fill out their 'Where I Have Been' maps on Facebook).

Dawny -- Huddersfield
Katharine -- Cardiff
Fabiana -- Brussels
Hiroko -- moving to Oregon
Mari -- moving to the US
Kneece -- France
Helene -- Oxford
Steffi -- moving to Germany
Maurizio and Kath -- parenthood
Georgia -- her first house
Me -- Normal for Norfolk

Mercy me. The fact that almost all my friends from that segment of life [except Hiroko -- she cannot come from Japan for a two-hour ceremony :( ] are going to be dressing up in funny hats and capes to 'graduate' 10 months after submitting the outcome of our hard work and then mildly freaking out for several months to find what the hecks to do next just really doesn't compute at all.

OMG!!!!! Graduation is like two weeks away! eeeekkk!

Someone had best get knitting. She has dawdled entirely too long. She has knitted sweaters for various baby-type creatures (and a moose) and she has twirled her hair and made Nestle Toll House cookies in a most irresponsible manner. Here is Cooking for Engineers version... excellent!

Fabiana also got to see the fishes (Jasper and Carrot), and we both squealed quite alot about how fabulous it is that they are still alive and how big they are :)

AND, Kneece is coming from France for my graduation! Whee! (It is a reeeeeally good thing I am taking the entire week off, methinks)

The only thing to annoy me today is that Norwich Council seems to feel that plastic is not recyclable. And so, 9,732 empty milk containers are still in my recycle bins. Idiots.

knit, knit, knit, knit, knit...

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Wettest Day on Record

(internet at home is being variable and undependable -- need visit from computer geek of some sort. probably of the Wirish sort.)

Yesterday was the wettest day in British record-keeping and this June is the wettest as well! There is horrible flooding all over the country. People have died. Business people had to be evacuated from offices. It is MENTAL.

Today, it is very very cold (at the moment, it is 11*C -- this is like the low 50*s F, I think). The wind is blustery. I did not ride my bike as was afraid of being blown into the side (or even worse, back) of a rubbish truck.

Sundry people who shall remain nameless have pressured me into joining yet another of these stupid web/network/'IHaveMoreFriendsThanYou things. It is Facebook. It is okay, I suppose. AND, I have 22 friends so far (hoorah!).

At work, am planning travel for Fall. This is like a grand puzzle and is quite fun for the most part.

Friday last week, went to meeting in London at Goodenough College. Can you imagine working there?! The horror of having people ask you incessantly if your college was 'good enough'... Tee hee hee. It was a useful meeting and involved British people saying that the US was actually doing something much better than themselves! (gasp) This something is Pre-Departure and Re-Entry Orientation for students studying abroad (e.g., University of the Pacific).

Helene met me in London after taking the train from work, and we rode up on the 6.30 together, which made the journey quite pleasant.

Not much of historic note was accomplished over the weekend other than food, wine, lime cheescake, coffee and guacamole consumption. Skies were pretty grey the whole time, too, though fortunately no deluges.

To left, is St. George Tombland, which is interesting for the square blocks forming the flint knapping as opposed to being flint rocks simply split in half.

To right, is Helene (and she hates this picture because she is a Silly Lady Friend). Photo inside the Cloister of Norwich Cathedral, right before we had the poorest cuppa tea in the history of the planet in the Refectory.

And, the Royal Arcade (where resides The Colman Mustard Shoppe)!

Finally, what on earth makes Paris Hilton's release from prison of import to Britons? This was considered (by some dim candle) that this needed to be on the morning BBC news, alongside stories of destructive flooding and the Alan Johnston video of him wearing an explosives belt. But, yes, let's follow helicopter video coverage of a dime store bimbo leaving Lynwood after serving (less than half the) time for breaking a drink driving parole. Super!

Sunday, 17 June 2007


Norfolk is the driest county in England. However, has been not quite the case this past week, as severe flooding has hit the area – one house had water rise 6 feet in the house within 45 minutes! The River Wensum, which is right by my house, is much higher (and faster) than usual, though not quite to the point commemorated by a plaque on the side of the Anchor Brewery (now converted into posh flats) which states the level the water reached in 1783 or something.

[On a side note, here is a listing of defunct breweries in the area. Bullard and Sons, Anchor Brewery is listed as being on St. Miles Bridge, about 4/5 of the way down the page.]

There was grand thunder on Wednesday night and heavy rain both Wednesday and Thursday nights! My shoes were soaked through after walking home from knitting group in streams of rain flowing down the cobbled streets.

My favourite juxtaposition of colours is blue-blue sky with sunshine, angry-grey clouds framed by white puffy ones, this all reflected in water lined by green-green trees and red-red poppies. Even if there is no green and red, the blue-grey-sunshine combo is just vibrant and always gives me chills. This is very hard to capture with a camera.

Yesterday, on and off deluges between the most gorgeous blue skies. Went to Springwatch Festival in Chapelfield Gardens with Clem (from work), Richard and Clem’s mom, Ferne (what a lovely name!). Monty and Speedy (the puppies) were also part of the outing. A lot of cities in Britain have these, and most were held last weekend (now, don’t say this is Normal for Norfolk…) and they are to kind of encourage people to take advantage of beautiful nature now that the sun has arrived. The theme was Do One Thing…

Norwich is one of 15 cities taking part in BBC Breathing Places, and people are being encouraged to Do One Thing to help both the environment and also to make their cities a better place for wildlife. There were free wildflower seeds to encourage butterflies in your garden and one tent had birdhouse components to buy for £2 and then build with your kids. The area in front of the tent was crammed with all these little groups of kids constructing and hammering their little birdhouses together – so CUTE!

Last night, Sally (from work) had myself and Sumiko (from work) and two more friends over for dinner. It was quite lovely, I brought cookies, and Bear and Moose got their pictures taken on the mantle. (There are more pictures of Bear and Moose from their trip from America, which will be posted shortly.)

Some other things accomplished this week:
* BT installed (therefore internet at home! hoorah!)
* joined library
* baked cookies (Nestle Toll-House is a big hit with the Brits)
* got TV License (so can watch TV legally and without fear of prosecution)
* drank no caffeine on Saturday
* cleaned fireplace as thoroughly as possible with small dustbroom (this was a challenge)
* indulged at The Futon Company (this was entirely a necessity)
* alarmed a taxi driver by cramming a futon mattress into the back of a black cab diagonally


Although have probably mentioned this before, I do love British pageantry.

Have just caught the end of BBC1 commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands’ Liberation. This may be on purpose for the Queen’s birthday, or it may just be a coincidence. There was a ceremony at the Horse Guards Palace and now 9,000 soldier parade (not including the bands!) down the Mall. And thousands of people lining the streets. Baroness Thatcher is dressed in a lovely very fuschia dress, coat and hat; she is 81.

It is all very inspiring as they march past Prince Charles, who is returning salute to the March-Past as it proceeds past the Victoria Monument. One of the officers marching next to Prince Andrew Duke of York, has to keep doing this little skip trying to keep in time with Prince Andrew, who is not marching in time to everyone else. Tee hee.

A Fly-Past is going to happen any minute now.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Slurpee Susie

Today is Susie's funeral in Dallas.

She was an amazing person whose sparkle never dimmed even as her body failed her. She was an absolutely inspirational person the whole time I knew her, whether she was trying to help me get a job at the Dallas Museum of Art or just hanging out with the pups. It would have been so cool to go for the Girls' Weekend in Dallas almost three weeks ago... Over the past two years, it has been always so cheering to get an email from her letting me know how much she supported my 'British adventure'.

One thing that makes me sad is that she may not have gotten my last card in time.

I hope there is a Slurpee machine when she gets there.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007


No. It doesn't.

Today, the cost per week figure on the same room as ranted on yesterday has been given to me as ... £53.48!!!!

(Apparently, the figures PUBLISHED in the brochure were WRONG. Riiiiiiiiight. Because that is a Good Practice way to communicate with customers. Let's not make little correcting labels and correct our bloody error or anything. Surprises are much more fun!)

In addition to our shekels and goat conversions (thank you, Eamonn), we should also keep in mind (I have been told) that PRICES ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT in both per week and per day costs whether the student is:
* Autumn only
* Spring only
* Full Year


This just gets more baffling. I swear I am being driven to campaign for more MATHS and logic!

Monday, 11 June 2007


Now, admittedly, I am not the most clever of creatures when it comes to maths. I like to spell.

However, numbers do have some sort of odd amusing quality for me (esp. when am not being assessed on my abilities to make them do things), and so I do have a basic understanding of if the map of numbers is working or not.

Today, have been doing expense reports. At the best of times, this is painful (although, the sneaky receipt from Santa Fe Restaurant in Tarrytown, NY DID reappear after hiding in the Minneapolis pile just to peeve me and watch me tear my desk apart, because I knew I had seen it not 2 hours earlier). In the good old admissions office at Cemetary College, I had quite the reputation for delaying the expense report as long as possible after a trip, even if money was coming back to me (yes, we know this is silly), just because it is such a horrifically mind-bending experience (I mean, the balance of my own bank account is mostly determined by a delicate balance of telepathy and hunger... I am not a bean counter, even if beans are due me). Timmy Prowly McCrowley had to chase those forms out of my office. And today... I miss those darn forms. (gasp!)

There is not one form with all information on it here in the IO -- there are three. Or at least three that I know of -- one for credit card charges, one for cash from the office accounts, and one for cash of your own which you have stupidly used. I will just let readers infer what trauma this has inflicted on my Monday brain.

So, finally, two of the reports were done. Tomorrow will be for the 'cash of your own that you stupidly used' (you big twonk).

No more maths!

Or so, I thought...

Here is the fun conjuring problem for clever monkeys to puzzle over. Accommodation Office has yet to get back to me on this one (smirk).

* Student A pays Organisation 1 for the privilege of studying at University Q in England. Hoorah.
* Uni Q (amusing language reference here) is supposed to bill Org1 for costs of tuition and room. Just to make it more fun, this information is not written down anywhere for people new to their jobs to know.
* Uni Q bills students directly for more than they paid to Org 1 in first place.
* Uni Q employees get a new eardrum perforation from person in charge of Org 1.
* When Org 1 person-in-charge is invited to party at a conference, he is much nicer, although still rather irate (in the nicest of irate ways, and completely understandably) about the fact that Uni Q has cost him quite a bit of money and this needs sorting.
* Placating New Employee of Uni Q agrees and makes attempt to figure out difference between what was quoted and what was billed, so as to propose to boss that difference be covered out of our budget instilling feeling of Customer Service into relationship with Org 1.

This is just a part of what PNE found in the instance of Student A (all the others are different -- fun!):

1. there is no proof of what was quoted
2. accommodation brochure 2006-07 lists costs per week at £54.39 in Hall Z
3. student has been billed per night for 88 nights
4. 88 nights = 12.57 weeks
5. £54.39 * 12.57 weeks = £683.76
6. student account has been billed for £794.64
7. if we take £54.39 and divide by 7 for a daily rate, we get £7.77 per night
8. if we take £794.64 and divide by 88 nights, we get £9.03 per night
9. Hmmmm

Something is wrong here. And it is NOTHING to do with my math!


Thanks to the organisational skill (and generosity) of an Eamonn-ish person, we now have a photo of moose. This is a photo taken by Sally with her phone and then sent to E, who then transferred it to his computer and emailed it to me.
There are more photos still on my camera, which show the hat off to its fullest dashing capacity. Shall post these when my brain begins functioning again (it is, after all, only Monday).
How can say that today's forecast for Norwich is 'mostly sunny' and we have seen not even a HINT of blue sky at all today? It is grey, grey, grey :)

Friday, 8 June 2007

Knit Wit

Last evening, finally managed to make it to the legendary, and very difficult to confirm, knitting group that meets at The Forum in Norwich city centre on Thursday evenings from 7-ish to 11-ish! Clem (from my office) went with me and took her tapestry; v. convenient, as she lives right around the corner from me at the moment. It was a v. diverse group (although not as much fun as the Knit Wits in Shreveport yet) and I actually sat next to another American – a lady from Boston who moved here 3 years ago. Clem is also technically American, as she was born stateside AND another first-timer was born in Delaware, although she has no trace of an accent as she has lived here most of her life. I like to think of it as a reverse rebellious invasion.

My project (which is now finished, although I have no photograph to post yet) was/is a blue jumper/sweater and tiny hat for a moose. Readers may be wondering what drug I am now taking. But here is the story: on her first trip ever to the US last week, Sally made the dizzying decision to buy the cutest stuffed moose. Well, he has been photographed with Bear (of course). Bear does have a jumper/sweater, and Moose cannot be walked around au natural in company with other clothed animals. It is just not the Done Thing.

As well, I would like to point out that I am not completely nutters (or maybe just that there are more nutters out there, too) for knitting clothing for stuffed toys – another girl at the knitting group brings her bear everywhere with her, and he has an entire wardrobe of knitted clothing. Last night, he wore a lovely purple turtleneck. Next Thursday, Bear shall accompany me and Clem. This will be a nice educational outing for him.

FYI, tomorrow, 9 June, is Worldwide Knit in Public Day. Even if there is not a location near you, you should go sit somewhere outside your natural habitat and knit. There are a lot more places than are listed on the site above, if you Google it.

Speaking of Sally’s trip to the US, a couple of notes.

She, like E in March, noted the presence of fire hydrants/fire plugs on the street. I believe a photograph was taken. This is interesting as I don’t really even notice that they are there unless they are being cleared and gushing water all into the road, which will then splash up on my clean car right after it has been bathed (although this really hasn’t been an issue of late).

She also noted that loos/toilets/ladies’ rooms/restrooms/bathrooms in the US are really unfortunate. And I have to agree. This is not because they are dirty necessarily, but because of the visibility of people in stalls. There has been much amused discussion in the past two years over the American aversion to the word toilet (Eww. Ick. Bleugggh! Such an unfortunate word that conjures images that quite simply needn’t be conjured.), and Sally finds it amazing that a people who are so prissy over the use of this word can find it completely acceptable to have stalls that a) have walls and doors that are way off the floor and that b) have space around edges of the stall where people using the toilet can be seen doing their business. Yes, this is an interesting observation and I certainly concur.

Speaking of Done Things, there are certainly some stupid Done Things, such as the religious dedication to hierarchy. In the workplace of the 21st century, surely we have more opportunity for a flattening of interpersonal communication. I mean, hey! We've got women in here now, too (AND we can vote!). Anyhoo, regardless of who is whose boss, there are times when it is just sensible to ask someone a question instead of wasting time with chains of command.

To give an example: some exchange agreements (which are my personal responsibility and primary remit in my position) need signing and/or renewing. These are signed by the Vice-Chancellor. I organised them and took a whole passel down three weeks ago. Some of them were signed and returned and some were not (and these latter were the ones that I had agreed to deliver to the partners by hand during the NAFSA conference last week -- naturellement). Since, it is my responsibility, I requested them a couple of times from the VC's PA (not unusual, no?). One day before my departure, my boss/line manager returned from his own work travel in Africa and forwarded a chain of emails to me (and referencing me). This is gist of the chain:

* VC's PA emails my boss's boss about some questions that the VC has about the validity of these agreements (one of which has been in place for 20 years and the other which was agreed to by my predecessor).
* My boss's boss emails her back saying that he would prefer to ask my boss about them (even though he came into the office very late that same day and talked to me in person about something completely different).
* VC's PA emails him back saying that I had been 'chasing' and she doesn't know what to do (WHAT to DO? What, what?).
* My boss's boss emails my boss (who is out of the office, remember) to ask him to ask me to 'stop chasing'.

The outcome of this was that my boss (also American and who also agreed with my query, 'What the bleep is this?') had to ask me to prepare notes for him and explain to him the reasons for my outrageous (sarcasm) actions (since theoretically, I/yo/myself/moi/me am the person who is supposed to know what's going on with the bleeding exchanges), so that he could to go and explain the reasons for these to his boss, after which he was instructed to schedule a meeting with the VC to explain these reasons YET AGAIN.

This is the most inefficient practice I have ever seen (well, maybe not the pinnacle, but still an excellent example). Five people to be involved in scheduled meetings, not to mention email composition time, where it would have been easier for the silly PA to ask me straight out if I could shed some light on the situation...

I must have lunch now.

Thursday, 7 June 2007


Have been introduced to The Goon Show. Am quite amused, even though about 1/3 of what they are saying is beyond my ears’ ability of comprehension. It makes me think of several clever and slightly mad friends and relations of mine, namely Matthew the Runner, Pablo the Wombat and Lindsey the Cousine.

In case (like myself), readers are unfamiliar with TGS, it was a live radio show which ran on the BBC from 1951 to 1960 and starred Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. Storylines are absolutely absurd, detectably post-war psychology, completely politically incorrect; my closest cultural touchstone here is that it is rather like Fibber Macgee and Molly gone off further into utter chaos of hilarity. There are funny voices. There are small linguistic jokes. There are large linguistic jokes. There is ethnic mockery (one of my favourites being the invasion of Red Hairy McLegs the Scotsman).

Here is a small sample of script:
Bluebottle: What time is it Eccles?
Eccles: Err, just a minute. I've got it written down here on a piece of paper. A nice man wrote the time down for me this morning.
Bluebottle: Then why do you carry it around with you, Eccles?
Eccles: Well, if anybody asks me the time, I can show it to them.
Bluebottle: Wait a minute Eccles, my good man...
Eccles: What is it fellow?
Bluebottle: It's writted on this bit of paper, what is eight o'clock, is writted.
Eccles: I know that my good fellow. That's right. When I asked the fella to write it down, it was eight o'clock.
Bluebottle: Well then, supposing when somebody asks you the time, it isn't eight o'clock?
Eccles: Then I don't show it to them.
Bluebottle: Well how do you know when it's eight o'clock?
Eccles: I've got it written down on a piece of paper!

In other news, have managed to return from Minneapolis and still retain the use of y’all in everyday speech.

However, a note for the pseudo-clever traveller and/or money launderer: one ought to not try to exchange any sort of foreign currency in the US. Bank employees merely stare gape-mouthed at you as if you were asking for a dead light bulb, 17 rachets, some gopher poison, a left speaker wire connection, pink gardening gloves and one bent hairpin (single eyebrow raised and lip curled completed the social interaction). This was very annoying and frustrating and involved an immersion on my part into angry reverse culture shock (i.e., having the opinion that the new culture is best and more sensible). It is funny how one gets used to what used to be inconvenient (like being unable to purchase gallons of milk, or even milk at all after 5pm on a Sunday) and how certain one is that one’s own culture will have the same conveniences of the new culture – LIKE CHANGING FLIPPING MONEY!

It appeared to surprise US postal employees, Western Union personel, and bank tellers that one would wish to buy US dollars with any other form of tender (‘what is that?’). [Now, with the current state of the dollar, I suppose, but still…]. Anyhoo, Wells Fargo does change pounds into dollars, although this was at a lower rate than my bank offered in Norwich -- stingy stinkers. And they charged me $5.00 to buy my more valuable notes. AND they would have charged me $25.00 to wire to another bank account (forcing a return to the USPS for a $1.50 money order to mail to the mama and papa, for deposit in the personal bank account so as to pay one’s personal bills).

To explain: in Britain, one can change currency several times on any one street, even if the street is four shops long. The Post Office changes currencies; every travel agency changes currencies; shady-looking Turkish shops exchange currencies; some grocery markets (such as Marks and Spencer) change currencies; and of course, any bank is happy to get rid of dollars. And a lot of these places charge no commission. This was just such a goat rope. With no goats.

In linear culture shock (as opposed to reverse), arranging phones in this country continues to baffle one who continues to be under the delusion that one is in a first world country with ellecterissity and technomolology. Difficulties in acquiring phone service of a normal sort requires almost as large a herd of goats as changing money in the US.

One can only start out with one company here – British Telecom. One may switch later, after one has been with the monopolisers for 3 months. Getting a new order with BT is impossible through online services unless one is installing a brand new service in a newly renovated 13th century building, which needs an engineer to install wiring. So one must call. If one is phoning a phone company, one would perhaps expect that they might have enough people to actually man their phones. Fortunately Skype allowed me to phone from my hotel room (at 5.30 one morning last week) for free, as this took 45 minutes, including the hold time and the time spent deciphering a gorgeous Scottish accent.

My phone was supposed to be turned on Tuesday(since my home is not a newly renovated 13th century building and already had an outlet on the wall), and it was expected that it would come on automatically. My mobile phone had been provided so that the ‘engineer’ could phone me if there was a reason to need to get into my house. He phoned. He did not leave a message or a call-back number. He did, however, leave me a flyer through the door that he MUST HAVE ACCESS. Idiot. Now, the next appointment available is for the 13th. I shall be forced to sit eagerly next to my front door from 8am to 1pm. This is idiotic.

To comfort myself, Tuesday night was cookie night. Brought Nestle Toll-House chocolate chips from Minneapolis and my work colleagues ate a box full today (Wednesday). This made me happy (as I quite enjoyed having some dough and the smell of baking. I have shown no symptoms of worms from eating raw cookie dough.). On Monday, I went out and got cookie sheets and four matching dry goods containers (for 99p each!) for my counter (to go with the wooden spoons, spatula, and measuring cups and spoons bought at Target last week and smuggled into the country to avoid UK taxes). Hmmm. Although I do not consider myself overly materialistic, my two favourite things to buy are kitchen accessories and shoes (yes, I also visited DSW last week). A Well-Shod Chef. Yes, I like it. (The US TAS people were either confused or amused by my suitcase, which also included in addition to the four pairs of shoes, kitchen implements above, three jars of peanut butter, a Swiffer mop, Swiffer refills, Olde English Scratch Cover, new socks and some Orbit gum. If only a folding table and chairs would have fit, that would have been perfect for my little breakfast on the front walk on Saturday mornings. Oh well – perhaps that would have been a bit overboard.)